NutShell Bureaucracy in Education

I can’t imagine I’m particularly popular with bureaucrats. I like things to make sense, I enjoy logical consistency. Incongruities upset my fragile disposition. I’m no linguist, but “bureaucracy” may derive from the Greek’s words for ‘borrow’ and ‘crazy,’ as in “let’s borrow another entities crazy idea and implement the idea here.”

Allow me to outline my issue.

Ivoryopolis Community and Technical Guild (ICTG) requests each student to take a survey regarding his/her experience within a currently enrolled online course. The survey is completely voluntary for the student. Grades will not be held, or transcripts; no punitive actions, period. Surveys are a necessary component of academic assessment, one measure of quality control & quality assurance. I strongly believe each course needs a survey to acquire feedback.

Here is the rub. Faculty who teach online courses at ICTG must receive completed surveys from 50% or more of their enrolled students to remain employed by ICTG. Two consecutive semesters of less than 50% return rate and the instructor is not re-hired.

In other words, an instructor’s employment is based upon the voluntary actions of students.

I have a problem with this model.

I don’t understand how I can be held responsible for the supposed voluntary actions of my students, or the voluntary actions of any given person. This does not make sense.”

“Oh, but you can encourage them to take your course survey. Give them a point of extra credit.”

“What? So, I’m supposed to bribe them to take my survey? Doesn’t that sort of bias results?”

“It’s just a point. Even though a point may only be 0.001% of a student’s grade, they love getting extra credit, and the end result doesn’t affect their overall grade.”

“Uh no. First of all, it’s insulting to students to encourage them to think that a single point of extra credit will impact their grade. Some will actually take that seriously. Secondly, from a mere sampling standpoint, giving extra credit introduces sampling bias.

Furthermore, if ICTG were truly interested in student feedback, the administration should be the one encouraging student participation. Give away an iPad, or Kindle, or something. Admin keeps track of who submits and who doesn’t; the response doesn’t immediately matter, but that a student did respond could be used as entry into a giveaway. The idea of punishing someone for the voluntary ‘inaction’ of another is simply appalling.”

“Then, make the survey an assignment.”

I thought you said the survey was to be voluntary? If I make the survey an assignment, that sort of undermines the ‘voluntary’ part, right?”

I have seen recent syllabi where the course evaluation is part of the course. The survey is to be completed as part of the successful completion of the course.

How is the survey completion documented? When a student finishes a survey a certificate or receipt of completion of completion usually appears. The student brings in the receipt. The instructor tallies the receipt in the course CMS. Boom.

For students‘s reading my comments, you could either gather faction of students to keep an instructor employed, or a faction to withhold their surveys to remove an instructor.

For instructor’s reading my comments, you might soon be forced with similar bad bureaucracy, or, be required to build your course survey into the required content for your online course – possibly even your on-ground course, as more universities engage digital evaluation measures.

Consider yourself warned.


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